How to Survive and Thrive in Nursing School

By ThriveAP Intern and Nursing Student Extraordinaire Olivia DeFilippo

As a second semester sophomore and nursing major, I am faced with a never-ending list of assignments, countless sleepless nights spent in the library and 12 hour clinical shifts.  I bet a lot of you are like me asking yourself how do I balance a difficult course load, a social life, a somewhat regular sleep schedule and extracurricular activities?  It seems impossible but it can be done.Based on my experiences, here are some of my tips on surviving and thriving in nursing school.

1. Frequent Study Breaks

I never understood this concept until I got to college.  I used to finish all of my homework at once, but that is actually counterproductive.  By taking a break you return to your work feeling physically and mentally refreshed allowing you to retain the information more effectively.  Here are some ways to spend your break: take a nap, eat a snack, go for a walk, listen to music or watch a movie.  Do whatever you need to do in order to break up your studying so you can absorb the material better and ace that test!

2. Get Organized

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Make to-do lists for your to-do lists.  By organizing your week you will be able to see how much needs to be accomplished and when.  This will help you formulate a plan to complete your work on time and will actually help you lead a more balanced life.  I personally make a daily timed to-do list so I know when and for how long I should be working on each task.  Then, I also have post-it-notes in my agenda with the upcoming dates of assignments, events and tests.

3. Relax

Understand that we are all stressed by our busy schedules.  Taking some time out of your day to relax can actually help you accomplish all your tasks more efficiently.  When you are thinking about how much you need to get done, are you actually accomplishing any of it?  The answer is “No”.  Instead, do yoga, meditate, go in the sauna or work out to de-stress and re-energize yourself.

4. Cry

I know that you need to relax and de-stress to accomplish all your tasks however, sometimes that just doesn’t work.  For those weeks when you have to take four exams, reply to 30 e-mails, attend a social event, and write a paper, it is okay to let it out and have a good cry.  Trust me, if you cry for ten minutes and then pull yourself together you will feel better afterwards.  When you are crying and don’t think you’re going to make it, remember you just might prove yourself wrong.

5. Believe in Yourself

Becoming a nurse or nurse practitioner is your dream.  Nothing good ever comes easy.  It will be hard and you will want to quit.  That is okay.  However, it is never okay to give up.  Never lose sight of your dreams.  If you believe in yourself and work hard you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

Are you a nursing or nurse practitioner student?  What advice do you have on surviving and thriving in nursing school?


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